Big Effort to Lower Drug Prices Once Again in Congress

Big Effort to Lower Drug Prices Once Again in Congress

Last year the House of Representatives passed major legislation to lower drug prices that included giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to negotiate for lower drug prices with drug companies.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, refused to even bring the bill up for a vote on the Senate floor.

Now Congressional Democrats, while only having a razor-thin majority in the Senate, are planning a major push to include in measures to lower drug prices in upcoming legislation meant to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure.

According to a report in The Hill newspaper, “House Democratic leaders are intent on including a measure that would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, sources say.”

The report goes on to say that “… the bill is fiercely opposed by Republicans and the powerful pharmaceutical industry, with executives warning it would harm innovation that leads to new drug development. The 50-50 split in the Senate is also raising questions about whether it could get through that chamber without losing any moderate Democrats.”

Democratic leaders believe the measure could save almost half a trillion dollars if it were to pass.  And while it would be much more likely to be brought up for a vote, the uncertainty about whether it could pass in the Senate remains.

In order to pass it all 50 Democratic Senators would have to support the legislation.  If that were not the case there would have to be enough Republican Senators voting “yes” to reach at least 50 votes in favor of passage.

With the Senate being so sharply divided, achieving that result is very questionable.

One of the uncertain Democrats is Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.  His state is home to many big-name pharmaceutical companies and he voted against a measure to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices in the Senate Finance Committee in 2019.

As of yet the White House has not put out President Biden’s plans for drug pricing legislation, or how strongly they will push for it.

Lowering drug prices is one of the highest priorities of TSCL and we will be working very hard to get legislation passed this year.